Sheets stellar as Brewers take series

31 05 2008

The Milwaukee Brewers kept it rolling this evening, beating the Astros 4-1. The team has now failed to drop a series in their last four. This is how the Brewers were supposed to play the entire season.

There are several things that can be gleaned from tonight’s game:

  1. If the bullpen needs a rest, the Brewers only need to call on Ben Sheets. After pitching a complete game against the Pittsburgh Pirates two starts ago, the Brewers ace goes 8 2/3 innings of one-run ball against the suddenly slumping Astros. Sheets is eating innings and pitching efficiently and effectively.Benny would’ve had a complete game, but Lance Berkman took too much out of his tank in the ninth. After the Berkman at-bat, he was at 122 pitches. Ned Yost made an unpopular, yet necessary move to call on Salomon Torres at that point. Sheeter was visibly upset at being taken out of the game. That is a nice sight to see for the Brewers pitcher. He always pitches better when he has a chip on his shoulder.

  2. The Russell Branyan call-up has been a good decision thus far. He is hitting .300 (in admittedly a small sample size), and he already has two home runs. Tonight’s shot was an absolute beast, measuring in at 465′. That is good for the third longest home run in Miller Park history. Russell may have a long swing, but it is dialed in right now. He is striking out at a high rate, but he is also drawing a healthy amount of walks. His on-base percentage is over .430 after tonight’s game. This “soft platoon” may get hardened if Russell can keep mashing like this.

  3. Prince Fielder likes to hit bombs with two strikes on him. Of his eight home runs this season, seven have been with two strikes. Fielder hit another two-run shot with two strikes on him off Brian Moehler tonight. Heat up, Prince. The team could use it.

  4. All the talk about Jason Kendall having an awful arm behind the plate is total bunk. After throwing out three runners in tonight’s contest, the Brewers catcher is now hosing runners at a 42%+ rate. It looks like all the work during the off-season helped Jason behind the dish. He’s been a terrific signing thus far in 2008. It is obvious that Ben Sheets loves pitching to him.

  5. Ryan Braun is not yet completely comfortable in left field. The Brewers announcers said that the wind made the ball difficult to judge after Braun made a couple of ugly adjustments, but I’m not sure that is totally correct. He is not breaking on the ball perfectly just yet. Braun is improving immensely, however. I will certainly not take that away from him.

Records: Brewers (28-28 ); Astros (30-27)

Hero of the Game: Jason Kendall

Ben Sheets may have pitched 8 2/3 innings of only one-run ball, but he wouldn’t have done it without Jason behind the plate. Kendall baled Sheets out of a couple of jams in the third and fourth inning by gunning out Astros on the basepaths. I’m especially talking about the instance when Kendall threw out Kaz Matsui trying to steal third. If Kendall doesn’t make any of those throws, Sheets is pitching a completely different ballgame.

Goat of the Game: Mike Cameron

Mike looked utterly lost at the plate tonight, going 0-4 with three strikeouts. The Brewers center fielder missed almost the entire first month of the season, and he still has 41 whiffs. That’s quite alarming, actually. With that said, Brewers fans should not have expected anything else from Mike. We all knew that he is a high strikeout guy that will hit about 20 home runs, steal 20 bases, and hit about .240. It may be a matter of weeks before JJ Hardy is batting second and Cameron is shuffled down to sixth or seventh in the order.

On Tap

RHP Dave Bush will take the hill tomorrow in the series finale against the Houston Astros. The Brewers will attempt to sweep the Astros, but RHP Shawn Chacon is likely to have other ideas. The game will start at 1:05pm CT at Miller Park.

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Round ’em Up: Saturday

31 05 2008

It’s a beautiful day, and the Brewers won last night.  Therefore, I’m in a fantastic mood this morning.  Let’s take a look at what the blogosphere has to say today:

  • Backtracking a bit, Jim Powell has some reflections about the Brewers-Braves series.  He especially liked the sequence when Brian McCann got a strike called on him while he was out of the box arguing with the home plate umpire.  I loved that.  McCann had no reason to complain about that pitch, as the home plate ump gave him four chances to step in the batter’s box to hit.  He refused, so he lost his chance to swing.
  • In-Between Hops is still ranting about Prince Fielder and his lack of home runs in 2008.  At least he is no longer blaming it on the lack of meat.  Prince is not hitting home runs at the same rate this season because he is pulling off the ball a lot more.  Pitchers are busting him inside, and he’s not been able to extend his arms.  Hopefully, he’ll be able to adjust.
  • Ned Yost is holding true to his new rule for relievers – no more than three days in a row.  Since Eric Gagne and David Riske got injured presumably from pitching too often, Ned is trying to protect his bullpen.  Really Ned?  It took you three years to figure out that probably wasn’t a good idea?  And people say you should be fired…
  • Milwaukee’s young stud, Yovani Gallardo, is cautious about trying to pitch again in 2008.  As he should be.  Don’t try to rush yourself back, Yo.  Get yourself reading for 2009.  Brewers fans will patiently wait.
  • The Brewers strike out a lot.  That’s not surprising.  You know what else isn’t surprising?  Ned Yost isn’t concerned about it.  Of course he’s not.  Just like it’s still early.
  • A sports economist says that Mark Attanasio and the new Milwaukee Brewers are building their franchise in the correct way economically.  Bud Selig and his regime did not build it.  Well, Mark Attanasio cares more than Bud Selig did about the Brewers.  That usually makes a big difference in the outcome.
  • Al’s Ramblings notes that the Milwaukee Brewers have the 5th best bullpen ERA if you discount Derrick Turnbow’s numbers.  The starting rotation is actually 5th in innings pitched too, despite the short outings compiled by Manny Parra, Carlos Villanueva, and Seth McClungBen Sheets is probably a big part of that.
  • The Brew Town Beat writes a nice piece on Carlos Villanueva.  In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past week or so, Carlos has been flat-out nasty in the ‘pen.  He has yet to give up a run, and he’s striking out far more than he did in the starting rotation.  Perhaps there is something to this Carlos as closer talk.  Not that Salomon Torres should be replaced anytime soon.  He’s been great.
  • Minor League Ball has a 2008 mock draft going on right now.  In the first round, the Brewers selected RHP Shooter Hunt from Tulane.  He’s a very raw prospect, especially for a collegiate pitcher, and he’s an injury concern right now.  I wouldn’t choose him with the #16 pick, but that’s just me.
  • The St. Louis Cardinals have sent OF Chris Duncan to Triple-A to get his swing figured out.  With his power, I thought the Cardinals would give him a little more time to sort things out before dumping him to the minors.  The team called up OF Joe Mather, who has been tearing up Triple-A.
  • RHP Franklyn German refused an outright assignment to the minors after being DFA’d by the Texas Rangers.  With a 2.08 ERA, the Brewers might be wise to give him a look.  He would be a huge risk for Milwaukee, however.  His ERA is stellar, but his WHIP is 1.431.  The right-hander walks far too many batters, but he is definitely worth a look at only 28-years old.  With that said, I don’t think the Brewers do anything with Franklyn.  The bullpen has been solid lately.




Homers give Parra plenty of support against Astros

31 05 2008

The Brewers remember all too well the drubbing they got the last time the team played the Houston Astros.  It marked the beginning of a 6-game losing streak on the road.  Manny Parra made sure it didn’t happen again.

The inconsistent lefty showed great stuff last night, regularly hitting 93-94mph on his fastball.  His four walks were a bit misleading, as his command was much sharper overall.  It’s amazing what a little confidence can do for a pitcher.

Perhaps it was Houston’s Miguel Tejada that knocked some confidence into the young pitcher.  In the first inning, Miggy hit a laser-like line drive that hit Parra in the stomach.  Milwaukee stared another injury in the face, but Manny showed resiliency and pitched another five innings of one-run ball after the first.

The offense jumped on the opposing starter, Brandon Backe, early in the game.  Mike Cameron and Ryan Braun hit back-to-back jacks in the bottom of the first inning.  That was all the support the Brewers pitching staff needed to win the game.  It was a nice change for the Brewer faithful.  The team has not won too many games that weren’t nailbiters.

Speaking of Ryan Braun, he has been playing with an inner-ear infection.  Reports say that Ryan is experiencing dizziness and a lack of hearing in his right ear.  After a 4-4 performance last night, however, I think Ryan should keep that infection around for a while longer.  Just kidding, Ryan.  Get better soon!  Just keep the bat hot…

Carlos Villanueva looked superb in the bullpen again last night, going two strong, scoreless innings and striking out two Astros.  The young right-hander may have found a niche for himself in the bullpen.  Yost will have to make certain he doesn’t get worn down in August like he did last season.  Lessons learned, Ned…lessons learned…

The big fella accounted for the other home run Milwaukee hit during the game.  Prince Fielder hit an absolute laser beam over the right field wall for a two-run homer.  It was nice to see Prince get back in the home run column, but I would especially like to see him hit an opposite field home run sometime soon.  When Prince got on his power binges last season, he consistently took the ball the opposite way.  He hasn’t done that in 2008 yet.

Records: Brewers (27-28); Astros (30-26)

Hero of the Game: Manny Parra

This award could have gone to Ryan Braun quite easily, but the offense was unneeded today, as Manny gave Ned Yost and the Brewers a very strong outing tonight.  His pitch count was extremely reasonable tonight, which was a nice change for Manny.  He only had 87 pitches through six innings.  50 of those were strikes.  Last night’s outing gives Manny something to build upon.  His consistency needs to improve if the Brewers are going to make a run for the division in the coming months.  All signs point skyward for Manny, but he showed how quickly things can turn around last weekend in Washington.

Goat of the Game: Corey Hart

Sorry Corey.  You went 0-4.  Rickie Weeks went 0-3, but got hit by a pitch, stole a base, and scored a run.  Russell Branyan at least walked once.  You took the collar.  Get ’em next time, kid.

On Tap

RHP Ben Sheets will face RHP Brian Moehler tomorrow night in Miller Park.  The Brewers look to secure a series victory against the Houston Astros.  The first pitch will go out at 6:05pm CT.





Minor League Boxscores: Saturday

31 05 2008

Nashville Sounds (23-31), 5.0 GB

Final 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Nashville 1 0 1 0 0 2 0 0 0 4 11 0
Albuquerque 0 0 0 1 0 0 8 0 X 9 11 0

LHP Lindsay Gulin – ND, 6.1 IP, 6 hits, 4 ER, 3 BB, 4 K – 3.40 ERA
RF Tony Gwynn Jr. – 2-3, 2 1B, RBI, run – .433 BA
CF Laynce Nix – 2-3, 2B, RBI, BB, run – .315 BA
1B Brad Nelson – 3-4, 3 1B, run – .337 BA

Huntsville Stars (34-21), — GB

Final 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Huntsville 1 0 1 0 0 1 2 0 1 6 11 2
Mobile 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 6 1

RHP Donovan Hand – ND, 5.0 IP, 4 hits, 3 runs (1 ER), 0 BB, 2 K – 2.70 ERA
RHP Omar Aguilar – (S, 1) 1.0 IP, 1 hit, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K – 0.00 ERA
3B Mat Gamel – 2-4, 2B, HR (13), 2 RBI, BB, 2 runs – .386 BA
C Angel Salome – 3-4, 2B, 3 RBI, run – .385 BA
RF Matt LaPorta – 2-3, 2B, 2 BB – .285 BA

Brevard County Manatees (27-27), 6.0 GB

Final 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Vero Beach 0 2 0 0 4 0 0 0 0 6 7 0
Brevard County 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 7 0

RHP John Axford – (L, 2-4) 4.2 IP, 4 hits, 4 ER, 4 BB, 9 K – 4.12 ERA
LF Charlie Fermaint – 2-4, 2B, RBI, SB (14) – .223 BA

West Virginia Power (21-32), 12.0 GB

Final 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
West Virginia 0 0 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 5 12 0
Greensboro 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 4 7 2

RHP Amaury Rivas – (W, 4-1) 5.1 IP, 3 hits, 1 ER, 3 BB, 3 K – 2.44 ERA
RHP Corey Frerichs – (S, 2) 3.2 IP, 4 hits, 3 ER, 0 BB, 7 K – 3.08 ERA
2B Eric Farris – 3-5, 3 1B, run – .194 BA
C Jonathan Lucroy – 2-5, 2 1B, run – .316 BA
3B Zelous Wheeler – 1-4, 1B, RBI – .270 BA





Friday’s NL Central Review

30 05 2008

UPDATE 05-30-08 2:35pm – Mark Mulder of the St. Louis Cardinals says that he will retire if another surgery is required on his ailing shoulder.  I was very interested in how Mulder was going to bounce back once he made it back to the big leagues, but it is looking more and more unlikely.  Best of luck to you, Mark.

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Chicago Cubs (33-21), — GB

The Chicago Cubs now have the best record in baseball. It makes me a little sick to say that, but the Northsiders have been playing some fantastic baseball. The week started out a little rocky in Pittsburgh, as the Cubs lost two out of three to the lowly Pirates. The team then welcomed the Los Angeles Dodgers to Wrigley and greeted them with a sweep. They made it four in a row by beating the Colorado Rockies yesterday. Goat Riders of the Apocalypse has a funny article thanking the NL West for being so bad and allowing the Cubs to take up the mantle as the best team in baseball.

One thing Chicago fans should be concerned about is their lackluster performance on the road thus far. They are a very average 10-13 on the road, while posting a great 23-8 at home. As you can see, the Cubs have played many of their games at home. It will be interesting to see what Chicago can do when they are away from the friendly confines of Wrigley for an extended period of time. With that said, the Cubs are getting fantastic pitching right now. Sean Gallagher pitched great this week, earning himself a few more starts in the fifth spot of the rotation. Ryan Dempster is still defying logic (meaning…he’s pitching well), and Carlos Zambrano is still chugging along nicely. He went 8.0 innings and gave up only one run against the Dodgers this week.

  • This is an interesting article from Another Cubs Blog. It doesn’t really pertain to the Cubs, but it does indirectly address the Brewers. The article is making the case that it is impossible to tell if a team is overachieving or underachieving based on what a manager does in the dugout. I understand the point here. It is valid. The problem is when a team lays a collective egg when the expectations are high. This article makes the situation a little too simplistic.
  • The View From The Bleachers is wondering whether or not the Cubs should try to sign Kenny Lofton. Are the Cubs honestly going to sign every outfielder possible until one sticks? Reed Johnson has not been spectacular, but he’s been solid and instrumental in numerous Cubs wins. Not to mention he’s a big reason Yovani Gallardo is injured for the season (no, I’m not bitter). All in all, Lofton would be an upgrade for many teams, including the Cubs. There’s no reason to mess with the chemistry right now, however.

St. Louis Cardinals (32-23), 1.5 GB

The St. Louis Cardinals are still plugging along, winning series after series. They now have won four straight series after taking care of the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers this week. The pitching has remained a strong point for the Cardinals, and the offense is producing because of the big bats of Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick. Ludwick has been the biggest surprise on the offensive side of the ball for St. Louis, and he’s made Chris Duncan expendable. I don’t believe the Cards will move Duncan any time soon, as they would be selling low at this time, but the point remains viable. The team has some pieces it can move to make the team better for a late-season pennant run.

  • Speaking of having pieces to move, Viva El Birdos wants the Cardinals’ organization to take a stand. Do they want to continue to contend this season? If they do, the front office should attempt to package a deal (including Chris Duncan) to get Brian Roberts from the Baltimore Orioles. The lackluster players in the middle of the infield for St. Louis has been reported here many times, so I will not delve into that too much. Brian Roberts would be a dangerous trade for a team that does not have a deep farm system, but they do have the money and will to get a move like this done. It would certainly augment the offensive in a big way.
  • In one of my favorite posts of the week, C70 At the Bat has an article that breaks down what every Cardinals t-shirt means. My personal favorite is the #15 Jim Edmonds jersey (the Cubs version). The article says that this person is “either obsessed with Jimmy Radio or just mentally deranged. Either way, please seek professional help.” Nice work.

Houston Astros (30-25), 3.5 GB

After taking two out of three from the Chicago Cubs last week, the Astros have played rather lackluster baseball. They split the series with the Philadelphia Phillies at home, but got absolutely blown out in the series finale. In fact, the bullpen gave up 11 runs in 2 innings that game. That’s hard to do, even if you were trying to do that. If you read St. Louis’ review above, you would know that Houston also lost two of three to the Cardinals on the road. I thought they had a chance to prove they were the second best team in the division in that series, but it was not meant to be.

Lance Berkman and Hunter Pence are still lighting up opposing pitchers at an alarming rate. Berkman is making a run for the midseason NL MVP award, and Pence has officially shaken off his April slump. Michael Bourn is even starting to come around a bit. Kaz Matsui is not, however. I’m still concerned as to what is wrong with Roy Oswalt. He has not pitched like the ace Houston needs him to be, and until he does, I do not believe the Astros will make a serious push for the playoffs. Time will tell, however.

  • The Crawfish Boxes analyzes the schedules thus far for the Cardinals, Cubs, and Astros. The Cardinals have had, by far, the easiest schedule of the three. The Cubs have played a majority of their games in 2008 at home. The Astros are right in the middle of the pack. This would suggest (admittedly on a very rudimentary level) that the Astros have a good chance to gain ground in the final 2/3 of the season. The article does mention that the Brewers have had the 2nd hardest schedule in the majors, so they may be able to make a run in the second half.
  • The Houston Astros have also made a few roster moves. SP Fernando Nieve has been sent down in favor of Jack Cassel. Cassel has dominated hitters in Triple-A in 2008, so it could be a nice move for the Astros. Dave Borkowski has been DFA’d in favor of Geoff Geary. I don’t want Dave Borkowski, and neither will any other major league team. Astro fans, you’ll still have your pitcher at the end of the day. Don’t worry.

Pittsburgh Pirates (25-28), 7.5 GB

The Pirates are still toying with the hearts of their fans. They go out and take care of business against the first place Chicago Cubs. The team then loses two out of three to the last place Cincinnati Reds. Granted, the series against the Reds was on the road, but it must still be frustrating for Pirates fans. Pittsburgh travels to St. Louis next and will try to right the ship against the second place team in the Central. The Pirates seem to play well against good teams, so it could be a good series.

The offensive forces of Jason Bay and Xavier Nady cannot be stopped. Pittsburgh has some nice trading chips if they would like to move them come July, which I believe they will. The organization has to save face somehow after some of the bad moves they have made (Matt Morris anyone?).

  • There has not been much going on in the blogosphere regarding the Pirates, but they did activate Jack Wilson from the DL. The light-hitting Brian Bixler was optioned to Triple-A to make room for Jack. Wait, I think I just implied that Jack Wilson is not a light-hitter. I apologize. They both cannot hit a lick.
  • Bucco Blog is always good for a nice little rant regarding the Pittsburgh Pirates. This week, the site takes up the 2008 draft. The article says that Pirates fans are already organizing a revolt against the team if the front office does not open up its pocketbooks and pay for a supreme talent in the draft. The team has consistently overdrafted players, so they wouldn’t have to pay a big signing bonus. The ramifications have obviously been seen in the lack of talent in the farm system in Pittsburgh. If fans are crying out against the management, I believe the team will have to draft a high-profile player with the second pick. Why wouldn’t they?

Cincinnati Reds (25-29), 8.0 GB

The Cincinnati Reds are still on the brink of contention in the NL Central. They are only four games under .500, and they are beating the teams they should beat lately. The Reds split a four-game series with the San Diego Padres (on the road) and took two out of three against the Pittsburgh Pirates at home. For the Reds to be successful, they need to be .500 on the road and just above .500 at home. It’s just that easy, right?

I have been a little concerned that Aaron Harang has been hit around fairly hard in his last couple outings. Perhaps he needs to face the Milwaukee Brewers, as he absolutely owns Milwaukee hitters. It is most likely just a slump that he will work out of, but it’s something to keep an eye on. Edinson Volquez has been fantastic this entire year, but Dusty Baker is still pushing his arm too much. Do the Reds really want to injure the kid?

  • The biggest news of the week is that the Reds called up CF Jay Bruce. The Red Reporter runs down some of his minor league numbers so you understand just how good the guy is. He’s someone the Brewers are going to have to face for the next decade or so. He has power, hits for average, plays solid defense, and has speed. The offense just got exponentially better with Bruce in the lineup.
  • Do you like the new trend of Sabermetrics? The Red Reporter has a nice article that analyzes the swing tendencies of Brandon Phillips. What does he swing at? How often does he make contact? It’s all here. Brandon is very much like Ryan Braun. He swings at anything and everything, especially the low and outside pitches. When the pitch is right down the middle though, Brandon (like Ryan) absolutely crushes the ball.




Minor League Boxscores: Friday

30 05 2008

UPDATE 05-30-08 – Yesterday, I did an interview with Dexter-Sports about the Brewers and the upcoming draft in June.  Here’s the link.

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Nashville Sounds (23-30), 5.0 GB

Final 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Nashville 1 0 2 3 0 1 2 0 0 9 12 0
Albuquerque 0 2 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 4 10 3

LHP Sam Narron – (W, 3-0) 7.0 IP, 10 hits, 4 ER, 2 BB, 1 K – 4.05 ERA
CF Tony Gwynn Jr. – 3-5, 3 1B, SB (2), 2 runs – .407 BA
RF Laynce Nix – 3-4, 2B, HR (7), RBI, BB, 3 runs – .309 BA

Huntsville Stars (33-21), — GB

Final 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Huntsville 0 0 4 1 0 0 3 0 0 8 10 0
Mobile 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 6 0

LHP Brae Wright – (W, 3-5) 8.0 IP, 5 hits, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K – 3.80 ERA
CF Michael Brantley – 2-5, HR (1), RBI, 2 runs – .330 BA
SS Alcides Escobar – 4-5, 2B, RBI, run – .311 BA
3B Mat Gamel – 2-5, HR (12), 2 RBI, 2 runs – .384 BA
C Angel Salome – 1-4, HR (5), 3 RBI – .373 BA
1B Chris Errecart – 1-4, HR (9), RBI – .307 BA

Brevard County Manatees (27-26), 6.0 GB

Final 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Daytona 4 0 0 3 1 0 1 0 0 9 10 2
Brevard County 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 3 6 0

RHP Josh Butler – (L, 1-6) 4.0 IP, 6 hits, 7 ER, 3 BB, 0 K – 5.92 ERA
CF Darren Ford – 1-3, 2B, SB (27), run – .236 BA
3B Taylor Ford – 1-4, RBI – .302 BA

West Virginia Power (20-32), 13.0 GB

Final 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
West Virginia 1 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 4 7 0
Greensboro 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 0 0 3 10 1

RHP R.J. Seidel – (W, 2-3) 6.0 IP, 6 hits, 2 ER, 3 BB, 1 K – 4.60 ERA
LHP Mike Ramlow – (S, 4) 2.0 IP, 2 hits, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K – 2.75 ERA
2B Eric Farris – 1-4, 1B, RBI, SB (3), run – .164 BA
C Jonathan Lucroy – 3-3, 2B, HR (8), 2 RBI, BB, SB (6) – .314 BA





Interview with Huntsville’s Brett Pollock

29 05 2008

About a week ago, I posted a little tidbit about Mat Gamel’s defense from Huntsville’s play-by-play announcer, Brett Pollock. It was a snippet of a larger interview that he and I have been working on the past few days. Here’s the full interview. Brett was wonderful about the whole process (seems to be a common theme in the Brewers organization).

Wow, I just realized that I’ve had two interviews in one week. You all are being spoiled…

BrewersNation: Some of my readers are wondering how Mat Gamel’s defense has been progressing in Huntsville? We know he can mash the ball, but how’s the defense coming?

Brett Pollock: Gamel has played real well at third base, better than most of us thought he would based on his error total from last season. The only real bad game he has had was in late April against Jacksonville when he made three errors.

He has made numerous outstanding plays going to his right on the backhand and has displayed a strong arm in those situations. He still gets himself tangled up at times with footwork and could be a little more consistent going to his left but for the most part he has played well.

By comparison, he is ahead of Braun since he has always played the position, and has the ability and the makeup and desire to turn himself into a good defender. He will not not make because he didn’t work hard enough..he realizes he has a good teacher in Don Money and is using him as a resource to make himself a better player at the position.

BN: We know Huntsville is stacked with players like Matt LaPorta, Mat Gamel, and Alcides Escobar. Which prospect playing for Huntsville do you believe has the brightest future in the big leagues?

B. Pollock: Gamel has been very very impressive offensively; he is disciplined at the plate and has displayed good power the opposite the way. If he continues to improve defensively and keeps doing what he is doing with the bat, I think he has a very bright future at the big league level in front of him.

Escobar is sensational defensively and makes the plays going in every direction and possesses a very very strong arm, one of the strongest in all the minor leagues. He has added weight and strength and will continue to do so and once he improves his strike zone discipline a bit and realizes what he is capable of (and doesn’t try to be a home run hitter), he will be a high-quality major league player for a long long time. Many compare him to Tony Fernandez and I think he has the ability to have the same kind of career, which would be a pretty good one.

LaPorta is still very inexperienced at the professional level and like a lot of hitters in that predicament, has had a hard time with the breaking ball. Once he learns to trust his power and let his ability take over, i.e. getting comfortable hitting the ball the other way, he has a solid future as a hitter. The question becomes where does he play in the big leagues and that will largely be determined by factors out of his control until a vacancy is created.

BN: One of my personal favorite prospects plays for Huntsville, Steve Hammond. After hitting a rough patch last year, Steve has come out in 2008 with something to prove. What are Steve’s strengths as a pitcher? What does he need to work on?

B. Pollock: Hammond has been a lot more aggressive and assertive on the mound this year than he was at almost any point last year, save for his complete game shutout at Birmingham and game five of the Southern League championship series. His pitches this year are more crisp and he has piled up quite a few strikeouts. He is a fierce competitor and works as hard in the weight room and on his diet as anybody I have seen. That being said, I think his future in the big leagues will likely be pitching in relief.

BN: Angel Salome has returned from his suspension. He’s widely regarded as the best catching prospect in Milwaukee’s farm system. What do you think about Angel?

B. Pollock: He’s still very young and learning..has made tremendous strides defensively and possesses a strong throwing arm. The ball does jump off his bat, but he has a tendency to pull off the ball.

BN: The biggest surprise for Huntsville thus far in 2008, in my own opinion, has been the play of Michael Brantley. Is his hot start for real, or do you see him fizzling a bit once summer hits?

B. Pollock: Brantley is very young, just having turned 21 two weeks ago, yet has a very very mature approach at the plate that I think will carry him through the rest of the season. He is a very disciplined hitter and knows his role as the leadoff man is to take pitches and try to get on base. He has walked twice as often as he has struck out and he has only fanned 11 times in almost 200 at-bats, that is impressive. His power will come and I think he will wind up having a very good year.

BN: Who is your favorite player to watch on the Stars?

B. Pollock: It wouldn’t be fair to single out one guy..I have had the pleasure of watching a lot of good ones here the last four years (Braun, Gallardo, Dillard, Parra, Villanueva, Gwynn, Jr., Rottino, etc..) and this year’s group and they all have been great to work with and made my job a lot of fun.

BN: What is your favorite part of being a minor league play-by-play announcer?

B. Pollock: It’s tough to give just one favorite part..I guess just being around the game I love and have been following since I learned how to read a box score and understand what was going on in the game. I have been blessed to be around a lot of great coaches (Mark Davis, Sandy Guerrero, Lorenzo Bundy, Dennis Lewallyn) and managers (Don Money, Scott Coolbaugh, Chip Hale) and front office personnel (Diamondbacks, Brewers) in my career and develop a strong working relationship with all of them. I have also been very fortunate to have been on teams with tremendously talented players like the ones mentioned above along with Brad Penny, Lyle Overbay, Chad Tracy, Brandon Webb, Jose Valverde, Jack Cust, Alex Cintron, etc… and develop a strong working and personal relationship with them. I have also had the pleasure of interviewing and interacting with many well known baseball coaches, scouts, front office personnel from other teams as well…a very very lengthy list that includes Richie Hebner, Mike Jorgensen, Bob Gebhard, Sandy Johnson, John Shoemaker, Jackie Moore, Jay Miller and on and on and on…

BN: Give the readers at BrewersNation something to look for in the upcoming weeks.

B. Pollock: A great pennant race, we are tied for the division lead with West Tenn and lead Carolina by three with 27 to go in the half after tonight and will be trying to win an unprecedented fourth straight half division championship.